The sunlight peered in from the windows, illuminating the dust motes that were drifting about the hall in an elaborate dance that seemed incomprehensible. The pattern the dust motes obeyed was entrancing, otherworldly, catching the eyes of one tired teenager whose sole reason for staying awake was to follow the waltz of miniscule entities that toed the line between reality and illusion. His chary golden eyes watched carefully, taking each movement in, with all of his senses shut down except that of his vision so as to fully appreciate the view given to him.
It wasn't as if there was anything to do in the hall. The black-haired young man unchained all his other instruments of sense to the world around him, letting in flurries of sound and smell and physical feeling. He could sense the other students in the room, some with hunched shoulders and pens scribbling away, some with heads on tables and eyes closed, lost in blissful sleep, and some typing at laptops, clicking and clacking away at keyboards, though more than half of them weren't actually typing down what the professor was saying.
He glanced out the window that he always sat beside every morning, the only reason that he even attended class. Cherry blossoms were in bloom outside and petals floated by in the wind, some landing on the windowsill, making for a picturesque scene. The window being slightly open, it let in the unsullied smell of spring breezed into the hall, fresh with the scent of new dawn, keeping the young man awake despite the ennui pounding down on him.
Looking back at his notebook, open to a blank page, he picked up his pen and uncapped it in one fluid gesture, then placing the pen's tip on the page. The ink flowed on to the page in one strange splotch with no actual shape to it. The student immediately pulled the pen up from the page, and paused for a full minute, lost in thought.
Then he started to write quickly, making clean, sharp strokes on the page with elegant ease, the strokes forming themselves into graceful English letters, each letter standing on its own. Each of the lines on the page were soon filled with words, except for the very last line on the page.
The young man signed his name on the last line of the page, a barely coherent two words that looked like one: Echizen Ryoma.
Staring down at the page, Echizen Ryoma ripped it out of the notebook, and ripped it neatly into halves, then quarters, then eighths, and et cetera, until he was left with a pile of almost perfect rectangles.
The bright morning sun illuminated the assemblage of confetti on his notebook, highlighting the shadows between each of them. The sunlight reflected off of his wooden desk as well, given a sort of halo of light around his paper foliage.
Ryoma noticed that everybody was packing up their stuff and leaving the hall, and he too stood up. He opened the already ajar window completely, took his notebook, and put it just outside the window, a bit farther out than the windowsill. He flipped his notebook, letting the remains of his page fly down to the stone courtyard, to settle next to the fallen cherry blossom petals.
He would have to rewrite the letter again.
One honey-haired man sat quietly at his desk, aquamarine blue eyes intently staring at the computer monitor, waiting - hoping - needing an alert to pop up. There had only been minor signs of activity in the previous six months, small acts of violence and assault outside of the ones at night, leading to easier captures. He knew that those were significant somehow - they had to be. There had to be some sort of link between all of the isolated incidents, something huge to tie them all together into one elaborate trap so the unit - no, he - could finally catch that taunting devil, and somehow, his life would get back on track and he'd reach the station where he would find his brother and family, who had been waiting for so long. That was all he asked.
The monitor stayed the same though, a void of black, swallowing the fluorescent light of the otherwise dark office into its shadowy depths. The blinds blocked any natural light from entering the room, so the only sources of light were those of the office and of the monitor.
'Show me something, damn you!' the young man shouted, his voice drowned in rage, willing the computer to just give him something to do, pleading mentally with it, making bargains. I'll turn you off for once if you just let me at him, please, I'll let you have a break. Just give me a chance. I only need one.
The computer did not answer aloud, its monitor still blank. The brunet was sure that it was mocking him. He could hear the machine's reply in his head, the amused tone of his tormentor. Ah, but why should I listen to you? You don't appreciate what I'm doing for you, searching endlessly for any commotion. You never thank me. I think I'll make you wait a bit longer. This is fun, isn't it?
The young man punched his right fist through the monitor, making sparks of electricity crackle around it as the screen caved in on itself. The parts of the monitor that hadn't been shattered flickered a multitude of different colours before failing and defaulting into its previous, scornful black. Even in death it ridiculed him.
'Damn you,' the man muttered, pulling his now bloodied fist out of the computer screen. 'I bet you feel bad about laughing at me now.'
He shook his arm lightly, flinging speckles of blood onto his work area, the little splotches of red decorating his paperwork and his swivel chair.
'Syusuke? Are you okay?'
The brunet looked up to see a man with worried eyes and beamed, sending the man a smile. 'I'm wonderful. Thank you, Seiichi.'
Yukimura Seiichi smiled back the same smile. 'Good. We have a meeting right now with the higher ups, Syusuke, so you'll want to bandage that hand up quick.'
Fuji Syusuke nodded silently, opening a drawer where a half-used up roll of cloth rested, and ripped a long piece off, wrapping it around his wound skilfully in a way that only one with much practice could do.
'Don't worry, Syusuke,' Yukimura said quietly, taking Fuji's injured hand in his own. Fuji didn't wince from the searing pain, staring back into Yukimura's eyes. 'We'll do everything we can do and even that which we can't to catch every one of those monsters before we die.'
The emotion in Yukimura's eyes told Fuji what the smiling man wasn't saying: And the only reason that would explain our not fulfilling this goal is our deaths.
The chattering of his peers was almost unbearable to Ryoma's sensitive ears. The loud giggles, the low snorts, the fast-paced speech - Ryoma could hear it all.
'God, I hope I didn't fail that test.' Ryoma recognised the voice after a few seconds as that of a female classmate who was on the lower end of the passing spectrum - one that he didn't want to converse with, not that he enjoyed talking with anybody in particular. 'The prof was going over the answers during class, right, and I was all like, "Damn, I didn't get any of those answers!"' How do you think you did, Echizen?' The girl lived in a dormitory that was further than his, and usually walked Ryoma back to his dormitory, because Ryoma could never shake her off.
Ryoma shrugged nonchalantly, eyes focussed on the sun so low in the sky. There would only be a few hours before the sun disappeared from the horizon completely. The student kept chattering beside him, regardless of Ryoma's attempts to shut her up. The two continued to walk down the paved sidewalk. Ryoma would probably only need to endure five more minutes before they reached their respective dorms and Ryoma would be alone again.
'I'm so glad that classes are out for the weekend. I don't think I could stand another day of university. Some of us are going out to eat dinner tonight at that new Western restaurant. Want to come then, Echizen?'
The other girl's voice was hopeful, and Ryoma knew why. Having Echizen Ryoma by her side would garner all of the attention at night, because Echizen Ryoma was beautiful. Not pretty or handsome, but simply beautiful in an ethereal way, with pale skin, long, slender limbs, hair that fell to his waist in jade-tinted obsidian waves, and his golden, catlike eyes. He caught notice in any room he entered, eyes turning to him like moths to a light.
'No thank you,' Ryoma replied politely, watching the girl's face fall comically. 'I don't go out.'
The girl's mouth formed a perfect 'o' as she pressed a hand against it. 'I forgot! I'm so sorry. But it's already been five months!'
'Six months,' Ryoma automatically corrected, inwardly thinking that he didn't particularly like all his personal information being leaked to everybody on the campus, but the girl waved her hand in indifference, rolling her eyes, wordlessly expressing an bona fide teenager 'whatever'.
'Same difference,' she said, frowning. 'It's been a long time. Shouldn't you get back into the scene with somebody new? I mean, there are people lining up for the chance, Echizen.'
Ryoma shook his head. 'It's fine.'
'Are you sure?' the girl asked, and continued, not waiting for an answer. 'Well, come out some other time, okay? It'll be fun, really.'
Ryoma nodded absentmindedly, and uttered a goodbye to the girl, who yelled back far too loudly, 'You're welcome any time!' Ryoma didn't deign to give a response, and instead walked up the brick path to his dormitory.
Many people greeted him as he walked through the halls, and Ryoma nodded at each of them, despite not remembering most of their names. His dormitory was at the end of the hall, meaning he had to walk past everybody each time he entered or left his room. It was a fair trade-off, since the two rooms at the end of the hall were larger, forming 'L' shapes that met to form an angular 'U'.
He recognised this voice immediately, its owner being the person who lived in the other 'L'. 'Kirihara.' The man grinned, looking much younger than he actually was with his cheery, childish smile and his messy black hair.
'You could call me Akaya, you know,' the man whined, walking up to Ryoma and slinging his arm around his shoulder, which was a rather uncomfortable position since Ryoma was quite a bit shorter than Kirihara Akaya.
Ryoma gave the older boy a glare, making Akaya laugh. 'You don't have to be so moody. It's like you're on permanent PMS mode.'
Akaya continued before Ryoma could retort. 'So, you going to the dinner?'
The younger man provided Akaya with an incredulous stare. 'Are you crazy?'
Akaya shrugged. 'I'm going. It won't even be twilight then.'
'Idiot,' Ryoma muttered, entering his residence, and prepping himself for the inevitable.
He didn't hear Akaya quietly saying, 'You should stop hiding.'
Are you at your post, Seiichi?
His mind was harsher than usual, full of anger from the mockery of his computer and the idiocy of the meeting he had been forced to attend, where his bastard of a leader had asked him, 'Fuji, will you be fit for tonight?' As if Fuji Syusuke was ever not ready to seek out revenge by any means possible.
Yukimura's voice came floating into Fuji's thoughts, kind and soothing. I am. There will probably be activity on my end today; there've been a few confrontations here already. I think I'll be lucky enough to meet another one of the fine fellows today. Yukimura sounded, as usual, light-hearted, though Fuji knew of the cruel man behind those soft words. Fine fellows indeed. If they were fine now, they wouldn't be fine after Yukimura was through with them.
I'll talk to you later. Fuji then cut himself off from Yukimura, putting all concentration on standing guard. Fuji Syusuke, watchdog. Fuji hated watching. Watching meant waiting, and waiting meant not doing anything. But the part that came after watching made it all worthwhile.
He was rewarded after a bit over an hour, his honed senses immediately noticed a sudden presence somewhere to his left, after hearing the smallest snap, probably from the breaking of a thin twig.
Fuji didn't need his honed senses to hear the screaming that came next, the horrified yet muffled cries, probably from a hand being placed over the mouth of the one shrieking. Fuji darted over, his feet landing softly with each step, heading for the source of the noise. But then the screams faded to a quiet whimpering.
He was used to the sight by now. The mangled bodies, the bloody limbs, the traumatised eyes. The faces were always left intact. The dead never shocked Fuji - it was always the perpetrators that did that.
There was a snarl from behind Fuji, making him whip around to look towards a malicious yet stunning visage, with vivid green orbs as eyes and lips turned up in a pitiless smile. The owner of the visage had flowing hair that seemed to have a life of its own, flying behind the woman - if it could even be called one - despite the lack of wind. Her fingers tapered off into rounded tips without nails, and her whole body seemed to glow slightly through the material of her blue dress, as if echoing moonlight.
She said something unintelligible, making Fuji grimace in disgust. The beast couldn't even speak properly in its state - couldn't do anything human. Fuji would be doing it a favour if he killed it.
And that he would. He couldn't let it get away with murdering another innocent soul. Fuji pulled out a knife deftly and stabbed the woman straight in the chest. He had no remorse at all when he saw the monster fall to the ground and disappear in a flash of white light.
That was easier than expected, Fuji mused, as he took out a lighter to set fire to the human corpse. He hadn't even needed to use any of the abilities that the monsters had bestowed upon him, though he almost wished he had. There was something satisfying with using the monster's own talents to kill them.
He opened up the channel. I've caught the one that had been lurking about here. You?
I'm done as well, and am moving to the next location. Talk to you in a bit.
Fuji nodded, though Yukimura wouldn't see the gesture. The man wiped the knife on the grass to get rid of the blood, and then put it back in its sheath.
With any luck, he would get to use it again.
Ryoma sat in the cage, alone, hands hugging his knees to his chest. It was actually Ryoma's bedroom, separated from his study by a single wooden door, but it caged Ryoma in, the door not to open until dawn broke. He was sitting on his bed, which was warmed by the heater beside it, but his body stayed cold.
It always would.
There were things he could be doing, of course, like reading or studying (though he didn't need it) or just relaxing, but Ryoma couldn't, frozen as he sat on his bed, thoughts running through his head rapidly in the brief time he had before the complete control he had over his body was relinquished.
He should have been used to the loneliness of being by himself already, since it had already been six months, but he couldn't stand it. If it had been six months ago, he wouldn't even think about using the cage as he was now. He would have been outside, basking in the glow of the moon, unfettered by everything around him that tied him down, finally free... but he would do it no longer. He couldn't.
He was too ashamed.
His body could feel the sunlight fading away outside of his room, the light of the blue hour quickly becoming the pitch black of night. The change was inescapable, Ryoma knew, but he didn't want anybody to seem him when it happened. He didn't want to be hurt again.
The last ray of light disappeared, and the change started, the twisting of his insides and the transformation of his outsides. It would only last for less than a minute, but the pain never lessened.
Ryoma shut his eyes tightly even as his vision grew sharper, pretending that nothing was happening and that it was all a nightmare, even while he felt his soul fly out of him. He forced his eyes to stay shut, ignoring the voices in his head that taunted him.
You don't deserve to be imprisoned.
Ryoma knew he deserved to be imprisoned, so that voice did nothing to him.
You want to be outside.
Yes, Ryoma did want to be outside, but so what? He couldn't get out until the door unlocked itself, which would be when he was himself again and when all of the crazy voices shut up.
Don't come back to this room next night.
It was always this voice that tripped Ryoma. How he longed to keep out of the room that was his prison. It would be so easier for him to just stay outside of the horrid confinement and be liberated. This voice nagged and pleaded and suggested, its proposal so tempting that Ryoma almost took its offer.
But then he remembered those accusing, disgusted eyes, those betrayed, disappointed eyes, and all would be silent again.
His eyes stayed shut until weak sunlight flooded the sky, though not once did sleep come to claim him.
Wasn't that fun?
'Indeed it was, Seiichi.' Fuji laughed. It was surprisingly easy to laugh after witnessing murder, for some reason. Maybe because he had gotten used to it, which was already intrinsically funny to him. One did not get used to murder, but then not everybody saw it and carried it out daily either. 'And you can speak aloud now, seeing as I'm right next to you.'
Yukimura chuckled as well. He, too, must have gotten used to atrocities like death. 'Sorry, I forgot. So. How many?'
'Only one,' Fuji replied, frowning. 'I had expected more.'
Yukimura frowned as well. 'I got only one as well, which is strange. I hope there's nothing going on.'
Fuji nodded, staring off into the distance. The sun would be rising soon, and then he could sleep for an hour or two, before getting on with his normal life - though no part of his life was actually normal any more.
'There should have been at least four of the things out last night,' Yukimura pondered aloud. 'It's usually four a night.'
Fuji acquiesced. 'And there hasn't been anything big lately either...'
'Who knows,' Yukimura responded with a shrug, brushing some hair out of his eyes. 'But then he hasn't been spotted for a while either.'
Fuji didn't need to ask Yukimura who he was. '...I hope he's not planning anything.' Fuji sounded stupid even to himself as he said that.
'Of course he is,' Yukimura said with an unusual bout of ire, but then, they were talking about him. 'But we'll catch him, I know it. It's only a matter of time before he's dead.' Fuji smiled at the thought.
Fuji and Yukimura stood in companionable silence for a few minutes in the faint light before a cheerful tune played in Yukimura's pocket.
'Oh, sorry,' Yukimura apologised, 'that's my phone.' He pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open, answering, 'This is Yukimura Seiichi.'
He paused, and a grimace placed itself firmly on his countenance. 'Another meeting?'
Fuji groaned. He couldn't deal with another meeting now; he was too tired, and he didn't need another comment about his health.
'...Really. Well, we'll be there in a few.'
Yukimura snapped the cell phone shut. 'Syusuke, we're going to headquarters.'
'Headquarters?' Fuji raised an eyebrow. They never actually entered the main building unless there was something major happening...
'We've gotten a new project,' Yukimura said with a grim smile. 'I'm sure you'll like it.'
Fuji didn't need to question Yukimura, sure that he would tell him in a moment, and indeed Yukimura did.
'We have to apprehend him.'
Fuji's eyes widened, blue orbs staring at Yukimura. 'Him?'
Yukimura nodded, expression now blank. 'We have to catch Echizen Ryoma alive.'
And the story begins with the sunrise.